Toyota NSCS JGR Media Tour Notes & QuotesBy Official Release
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Did you meet with other teams while negotiating your contract? “I did it all privately, but I did meet with some other teams and they were very interested and there were some very nice and lucrative deals I guess you would say that were out there to pursue. Ultimately, what it comes down to I think is relationships and things that you’ve developed over the last five, six years here. The relationship I have with Coach (Joe) Gibbs (team owner) and J.D. (Gibbs, president), as well as the Toyota folks and the M&M’s folks and everybody – they treat me so well and it just is the decision to stay.” Do you plan to be at Joe Gibbs Racing the rest of your career?
“You never say never. You never say no to anything. You’ve always just got to look at what’s out there and what options you have. I did have options, which was awesome. I just felt like this was the best place for me. I’ve been here for a while now. I was a part of bringing Matt (Kenseth) in and having Denny (Hamlin) as a teammate — that’s been working well for the past few years. Being able to have the three crew chiefs that we have with Jason Ratcliff (No. 20 crew chief), who I’ve won a Nationwide championship, and Dave Rogers, (crew chief) who I’ve won Nationwide and Cup races with, and Darian Grubb (No. 11 crew chief), who’s been a guy who’s been at Hendrick like I had. To me, it just shows nothing but positive growth over here for this organization.” What does it say about Joe Gibbs Racing that you extended your contract after missing the Chase?
“Unfortunately, we had a tough year and it wasn’t one that either of us wanted — myself or Joe Gibbs Racing wanted to have a year like that. You look more towards the positive things and what these guys are working on here and what Toyota has been working on for us behind the scenes and what we feel like we can do moving forward to win races.” Does running the Nationwide Series for Joe Gibbs Racing take pressure off of you? “There’s still an organization to run over there too. KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) is running a full time Nationwide car this year with Parker Kligerman in the No. 77 Toyota Camry. Then we have a full time truck with Joey Coulter and I have my part time truck that I’m going to run for approximately 10 races right now — the No. 51. There’s a lot of things still going on over there as an organization as well. The decision became a little more clear when Joe (Gibbs, owner) made it a very clear point that he wanted me to be back in his Nationwide cars, he wanted me to drive his stuff and I felt like that was a positive thing for me to do – a positive thing for me to work with Adam Stevens (crew chief, NNS) and everything. When the unknowns were happening over at KBM, Parker Kligerman came into the picture with what all he’s got to make a full Nationwide deal, so it just made sense and all flowed together.” What do you need to improve for 2013?
“We just need some luck on our side. Realistically, most times you win a championship you have to have it all together. You have to have good equipment. You have to be a good, smart racer. You have to have your crew chief making good calls, but you also have to have some racing luck go your way. You look at the Chase this year — Brad Keselowski had some racing luck. He missed my wreck at Kansas that he was right behind me. He missed the wreck that (Jeff) Gordon and (Clint) Bowyer were in right there at Phoenix and some other instances also. You’ve got to have some of that go your way in order to win these things and it’s not something that you can control. It’s just a matter of the racing gods looking down on you.” Do you feel more comfortable with the TRD engines?
“Engines are engines. They’re good or they’re bad, but we’ve had a lot of good engines and TRD (Toyota Racing Development) has worked hard over the off-season. I felt like my engines there the last part of the season was our new engine package. Loudon (N.H.) was our last old engine package that broke and then the whole rest of the year I ran the new engine package and developing it for 2013. We didn’t have any other engine failures. Our fuel mileage was close – maybe still not as good as we need it to be or want it to be, but I think anybody would say that. There’s still areas to work on and improve in — not only by TRD, not only by us, but myself and Dave Rogers as well.” How motivated are you to make the Chase this year?
“I’m not here to make a check — I’m here to work hard and I’m here to win and bring home trophies and championships is what my ultimate dream is. I don’t know whether it’s the Lord upstairs just making me wait or what. Even if I did win one championship, I’m not done, I’m not leaving — I still want to win more. You still have that same hunger and drive to get as many as you can. It just plays out as it does sometimes. Sometimes it’s your year and sometimes it’s not your year. You can kind of see it as it progresses into week 22, 23, 24 throughout a season on whose year exactly it’s going to be.”KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing (continued)
Did you decide to stay at Joe Gibbs Racing because you are comfortable with the team? “I did transition once already and it’s not that you can’t transition again. The relationships that you build over time — I’ve got so many relationships with Andy Graves (Toyota NSCS program manager), David Wilson (senior vice president, TRD, U.S.A.), Lee White (president and general manager, TRD, U.S.A.), Ed Laukes (vice president of marketing communications and motorsports, Toyota Motor Sales) — all from Toyota. Then the M&M’s family and all the M&M’s brand people and everybody there and Norm Miller (president, Interstate Batteries) and everybody at Interstate Batteries. All these people you have an association with. Even the Dollar General side — I have a relationship with them too. I feel like there’s a lot more for me to lose maybe going somewhere else than staying here, but also having the great organization that you have here in Joe Gibbs Racing is plenty competitive to win championships.” What do you think of the 2013 Camry?
“I like it. I think it’s fun. It definitely has some different tendencies and some different attributes than the old car. They’re still the same chassis and it’s still a COT — it is called the Gen-6. All we did was re-do the shell. All the safety features are still in there and we actually added more safety features to it with three new bars that are in the chassis. So far they drive good, they put more down force to them. We haven’t really gotten into a pack yet with the mile-and-a-half stuff to see how they lead and follow. At Daytona, the shorter spoilers and the less down force package that we have there made for some tense moments I guess you’d say. I guess we’ll see how it ends up with a 40-car pack.” What does Matt Kenseth bring to Joe Gibbs Racing?
“Matt’s (Kenseth) a great competitor and I’ve known him for years. He was my brother’s teammate of course when Kurt (Busch) came into the sport at Roush. I’ve had a little side relationship with him over the years off track. Now that it gets to be more on track, we get to work with one another. He and I race Late Models sometimes. I race with his kid in Late Models and things. Matt’s really good at the feel of the car and explaining the car and things like that. Hopefully, he can really tell us what some of the significant differences are from the Roush stuff to the Joe Gibbs Racing stuff, which has been good so far. We’ve had some communications about that here since we’ve had a couple test sessions and I can only look forward to working with him throughout the race weekends.” How important is the Sprint Unlimited race to learn the draft in the new car?
“I think anytime we ever go down to Daytona, whether it’s with the new car or whether it’s with a different rules package or what have you, we always look at that Sprint Unlimited race as a race to watch to see exactly what’s going to happen and what characteristics you have in your race car and things. It’s a learning experience for everybody whether you’re in the race or whether you’re out of the race and not in it. For us, we’re curious to see how the car is going to race and how it’s going to handle and what it’s going to react like. I think the most things that we’re going to be confused about or a little chaotic is going to be all the changes happening throughout the race with the fan votes and everything. I think that’s exciting for the fans. I think that’s a neat thing that Sprint brings. Excited to see how all that plays out.” Does the addition of Matt Kenseth change the driver dynamic at Joe Gibbs Racing?
“We just mess around with each other a lot. I love razzing Matt (Kenseth) — he’s fun. He takes it, but he can dish it too. I’m actually getting a lot better at being able to do that because I’ve got him to lean on. Matt’s is going to be a great addition and so far he’s been a great addition to the team. He brings that experience. He’s got a great car sense and team sense and so did Joey (Logano), but Matt’s got a championship. Matt’s been here for a lot longer. There’s things we can learn from Matt. There’s things we could learn from Joey, but you look at Matt as a teacher — you look at Joey as a student. I think you’ll always kind of see it that way. Matt being that type of guy over here for Denny (Hamlin) and myself, I hope that it helps us.” DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What is the outlook for Joe Gibbs Racing with the addition of Matt Kenseth? “I think that when I started winning multiple times in the course of a year — it started when Kyle (Busch) came over in 2008. He pushed me. I remember going to a test and him pushing me to be faster. I was like, ‘He knows my game.’ And, I think Matt (Kenseth) is going to do something very similar to that for our race team. We’ve never had all three cars running good at the same time at Joe Gibbs Racing. We’ve always had one team that would struggle and another would be running up front and maybe two up front at the most. So, I think we’re going to have all three cars in the Chase and we’re going to have a very, very good year as far as Joe Gibbs Racing is concerned.”DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing (continued)
What does Matt Kenseth bring to Joe Gibbs Racing? “It’s hard to say really until we get to a race weekend and situations to figure out what Matt (Kenseth) brings to the table. Right now, he just brings his credentials. We know what he’s done in the past and I know what he’s capable of on the race track because I race with him every week. He’s going to be a guy that takes Joe Gibbs Racing to that elite level.”Is it hard to share information with your teammates that have a different driving style? “My style of driving works really well on the short tracks, so they will emulate the way I drive more on the shorter tracks. I think that’s really kind of helped Kyle (Busch) become as good as he has at tracks like Martinsville and a lot of tracks that he struggled at early in his career he’s a lot better at because of me. I’m as good as I am at Charlotte because of Kyle. You just bounce the information off of each other. I know that, really, when I was trying to get better at Dover in the Chase last year I studied a lot of what Kyle did, I studied a lot of what Jimmie (Johnson) did. You just work off the guys that are good. Matt’s (Kenseth) list of good tracks is very, very high so anytime I’m struggling he’ll be the guy that I go to.”
How is your daughter?
“She’s (Taylor James, daughter) awesome so far. She’s better than I expected, but obviously she’s still a newborn and still sleeping a whole lot. Really, for me, I just try to keep her awake during the day that way we have those nights free.” What has fatherhood been like so far?
“It’s been good. Really, it’s been fairly seamless in the sense that she’s been sleeping a lot. She came out healthy so there is no issues there. We’re just three or four days in. I’m sure she’ll be a little bit more feisty in weeks to come.” Are you getting any sleep at night?
“It actually has not been too bad. She’s sleeping most all of the time right now in between feedings, so it’s been relatively easy — so far. The experience is great. Your outlook changes on when you have to leave home and when you have to get home and things like that — how excited you are to pull in the driveway knowing you get to see your daughter. That part of it is cool.” What do you think of the new car?
“It’s good. I tested at Phoenix at the end of last year and it drove very similar to the car that we have now. I think NASCAR made a lot of aerodynamic changes to help the second car be able to pass the first car. The only challenge we’re going to have is that they’re running so fast. The arm throttle time is so much that it’s going to be hard to see a variance of speed from one car to the next. I think you’re going to see a great Daytona 500. From what I saw in the draft, the cars look great. You’ll see pack racing and you won’t see the two-car tandems. It’s going to be a car that fans are going to be excited about.” What is your favorite thing about the new cars?
“I think the looks is the biggest thing. Giving us more of a car that looks more cutting edge versus the box that we’ve been racing for the last five years or so. I think the looks are the biggest key that the fans will like.” What is your goal for this season?
“Our goals haven’t changed from one year to the next. We look at — we need to win at least six to seven races. That’s where we feel like we’ll be this year. And, we need to fill up the stat column with the proper amount of top-fives and 10’s that you need to win a championship. The champion is not going to go out there and win one or two races for the year. They’re going to be the guys that win consistently. We’ve done that over the last few years, but we haven’t had reliability to win a championship. So, that’s been the focus of this race team, really, all off-season.” What has kept you from winning a championship?
“We’ve won a lot of races year after year and we are always a team that wins a lot of races, but we’re always in the hunt and then something mechanical happens to our cars and it takes us out of the championship. Hopefully those bugs have been fixed. We’re working on a new process to make our cars more tough and rigid, making sure that they don’t fall apart. That’s been the key that’s really kept us from the championship.”DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing (continued)
How important will the Sprint Unlimited race be at Daytona with the new car? “This car — from what I hear — drafts quite a bit different than the previous car that we had. The two-car tandem is nearly gone now. It’s back to pack racing like the old cars were. So, I was just as successful on superspeedways before the ‘Car of Tomorrow’ than I was when it came, so I’m looking forward to that. I like the pack racing. I think that it’s more strategic than the two-car tandem. So, I think that it’s going to be very important to have your car driving well during the Sprint Unlimited and the Duel races to make for a good 500. From what it seems, these cars are somewhat out of control in a big pack.” Do you like the new format of the Sprint Unlimited?
“There’s several different options and as a driver you just want to know, ‘Okay, what is it?’ And that way you can plan for it. I’m not sure when they’re announcing what the actual format will be, but to me it’s good that they’re allowing the fans to dictate how the race goes. Just don’t have a fan vote of who wins because we know who will win.” Will it be easier going into your second season with Darian Grubb?
“I’d like to say that we’ve got a notebook now, but you’re not going to be able to use everything that you had from last year because of the new car. Some things will relate, like the short track setups will be similar. But, this car weighs a lot different. It’s heavier and lighter in different places, so I think everyone is going to be starting all over again honestly. Especially with this cambered rear-end setup that they’re having, I think that you’re going to see a lot of axel failures early in the year. The cars that are most reliable for the first 26 races will probably be the ones that make the Chase. The guys that struggle — the teams that struggle to get this new setup stuff to work will find themselves searching for a ‘wild card’ when it gets down to it.” Was it easier to focus on racing once you re-signed your contract last season?
“I think that it lets you race more relaxed. I know when I resigned, just personally, my experience was that I had a sponsor that was 100 percent behind me and I knew that I had a racing organization that was 100 percent behind me. So, a deal was easy because I’ve got the sponsor and I’ve got the team and I’ve got all of the tools to win multiple races and championships. For me, it was a no sweat situation where now I can just go out there and do my job and do what I get paid to do and that’s win. I think Kyle (Busch) had that same feeling, in my mind, that he’s got the sponsor that he knows has got his back through thick and thin.” MATT KENSETH, No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What do you think of the new car? “I think the car looks great. So far, it’s going really good with me making the team switch at the same time, because everyone is sort of starting over in a way. I really do, I like the car — am anxious to see it on the race track in competition – not only at Daytona, but really anxious to see it at Phoenix and Vegas and what they run like there.” Have you talked to Denny Hamlin about being a dad?
“He’s starting out — he hasn’t seen nothing yet. He said she’s sleeping all the time in the time at home for a little while – four or five days. It gets easier, but it gets harder too. Every day is an adventure — it’s truly a miracle. It’s fun to have kids and be a part of that every day.” Did you give Denny Hamlin any ‘Daddy’ advice?
“I did give one little piece of advice, but I’m not going to tell you what it was. It’s the same one I give to all new dads. We’ll see how it goes for him.” What do you think about changing manufacturers?
“I think the timing is good in a way. I think all the crew chiefs at every team, they have worked with the old car, but if they ran good somewhere they wish it wasn’t the new car so they could use up all that stuff. It’s a good time because it’s going to be a learning experience with not only the new car, but obviously coming to a new team and having a new group of people and all that as well.”MATT KENSETH, No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing (continued)
How has the transition to Joe Gibbs Racing been? “So far it’s been great. There’s a lot of great people over here — I really like their cars. These guys win a lot. I’m really looking forward to being a part of that. I’m really anxious to get to the track and get racing and see how we stack up compared to everybody.” Will you be able to compare working with Toyota to what you’ve worked with in the past?
“It’s been fun to be a part of this and meet guys from TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and see all the resources that TRD has and the effort they put into this – the money they spend on it and the commitment they made to NASCAR racing is pretty incredible when you get to this side of it and you get to witness it.” Are you impressed by how quickly Toyota has built their NASCAR program since joining the sport?
“It has been impressive to see how — like I said, it’s been impressive to be on this side of it and be on the inside and see the resources that TRD (Toyota Racing Development) provides and what they put behind this to make it run and the commitment they’ve made to NASCAR and the sport.” What has it been like working with Joe Gibbs?
“I’ve enjoyed getting to know him (Joe Gibbs, owner). I’ve seen him around a lot through all the years I’ve been racing, but never really got to know him or talk to him really very much at all. I’ve been enjoying that. I’ve been enjoying learning a little bit about him and spending some time with him and talk to him a lot. It’s been fun.” Do you feel like racing at Joe Gibbs Racing is a good fit for you?
“Absolutely, I really do. I kind of feel like a kid just starting to be honest with you. It sounds kind of silly since I’ve been doing it for so long, but really I feel almost like — I know I have experience — I almost feel like it’s my first year in a way. I feel like it really is a new beginning with the best possible stuff — the best cars, sponsors, people — all that stuff. I feel extremely fortunate to get this shot and to start with all this stuff in place.” What are you hoping to accomplish in your first season at Joe Gibbs Racing?
“The goal after you win a championship is to always win a championship. I was really intrigued by this opportunity when it came up for a whole bunch of reasons. One of them I felt like was — I wasn’t starting a fourth team, I wasn’t starting with a crew chief that has never done it, I wasn’t starting with someone who has never been over the wall. It is an established team that has won races — has won championships and done that stuff with an established organization with two teammates that win all the time. I felt like I was putting myself in the best position I could to win races and hopefully win for a championship. I think your role with your teammates — I always feel like you help each other as much as you can during the off-season, you help each other as much as you can throughout the weekend and once the green drops on Sunday, it’s one against 42. On plate races and stuff it’s a little bit different. I really think you help each other as much as you can during a week testing — try to learn from them and help them — do all that stuff. Then you try to put the best three race cars on the race track every week.” What are your thoughts on the new qualifying rules?
“It hasn’t until you brought it up. I don’t spend time thinking about that, really. If we were that far off where we have to worry about our car speed, we have some problems. That’s not something that I’ve really spent any time thinking about.” Do you feel you can only work with specific drivers and teams at Daytona?
“I’m being 100 percent square with you, I’ve never been told I had to do anything at a speedway race or not do something. I think the preferences are obvious. If you have a choice and it’s the same for you and you can help a teammate win a race, that’s what you’re going to do. At the end of the day at speedway races, especially now with the big packs, you see what line is moving and kind of works the best with you, you see who is making the moves and seem to be thinking on your same wavelength. Like, he’s making the move and that’s what I want to do to — I have the momentum. You have to understand all that stuff and I think you have to be working with someone that understands all that stuff. At the end of the day, you’re going to go wherever you think is going to give you a chance for your best finish or for the win. That’s what you’re going to do. It doesn’t matter who the car is to me.” MATT KENSETH, No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing (continued)
Would you work with a past teammate like Greg Biffle at Daytona? “If our cars are both fast together and for whatever reason you end up by each other, you’ll do that again, like I said. Obviously, I’m sure the owners and the sponsors preference is to work together if you can go get great finishes. But, if you have to work together and run 13th or if you can work with a different car because it’s faster and run third — you’re going to work with the one you’re going to run third with. You never know. It’s a whole different model car and you don’t know how anybody’s stuff is going to run, so I think you go down there and start the race and don’t really make plans — play it by ear and see how it works out.”Is there any place you like to go to during the off-season? “Wisconsin — that’s where everyone likes. This winter I’ve done less traveling than as long as I could remember for the last 10 years at least. We just didn’t travel much. We went to Wisconsin for a week over Christmas. Did an event at the fan club store and did some snowmobiling with some friends and caught a Packer game — did a bunch of stuff while we were up there. Then, pretty much we’ve been home ever since besides Daytona test.”
What do you hope to accomplish next in your career?
“I have a lot of things I want to accomplish yet. The list would be really long, honestly. You just never know. We really won’t know until we sit here and talk next year and see what our results are this year — what to expect. I’m probably more optimistic and excited — my expectations are probably higher than they’ve probably ever been, which is dangerous because you’re setting yourself up to be let down. I’m really excited about everything I’ve seen over here, from the people to the cars to their approach to the organization to just the whole thing — I’ve been really impressed by and proud to be a part of it. I can’t wait to get to the track and see if we can get results.”